A rescue operation triggered in the early hours of Friday in West Flanders saw a police van engulfed by the North Sea after officers drove it into the water to recover a woman.
Officers from the West Coast police zone, responsible for the territories of Koksijde, De Panne and Nieuwpoort, said they were notified about a missing woman from Bruges at around 3:00 AM on Friday.
“We immediately launched a search on the beach,” the police zone wrote in a statement published on their Facebook page, saying they were able to quickly find the women’s vehicle through the ANPR camera network for licence plate recognition.
After a “hellish” quest, officers then located the 41-year-old woman in the water, against a seawall near the town of Oostduinkerke.
“She had water all the way up to her waist and had no feeling in her legs,” the police said, adding: “We didn’t doubt for a second, we drove our pickup as close as possible to pull her out of the water.”
After retrieving the woman, officers were unable to drive the vehicle, a Volkswagen Amarok pickup, out of the sea after it became stuck in a hole.
Ine Deburchgraeve, a spokesperson for the police zone, told De Standaard that the car had to be left behind and that it was completely engulfed by the waters as a result of the operation.
“We sacrificed the police car for that woman’s life, the car got stuck in the hole and went completely underwater, it remains to be seen whether it was completely destroyed,” she said.
After being pulled from the water, the woman was rushed to the hospital, where she was discharged from in the course of Friday.
Later on Friday morning, a bulldozer truck was deployed to retrieve the police pickup from the sea, with the police saying: “Rather sacrifice a vehicle than a human life!”
The Brussels Times